Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello Nevares last month asked federal taxpayers to shell out $94 billion to pay for the territory’s recovery from Hurricane Maria — then turned around and paid out about $100 million in Christmas bonuses to island government employees. The governor’s aides say the bonuses are a longstanding tradition and part of the law, and were planned for in the budget approved last summer. But that budget came well before Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, leaving much of the territory in ruin and leaving the government begging for federal assistance. The island’s financial oversight board, created by Congress as part of a deal to bail the government out of a potential debt default last year, called the payments “imprudent” and said the hurricanes should have forced the governor to rethink his decisions. And the payments could dent Mr. Rossello Nevares’ efforts to get Capitol Hill to pony up for the recovery, where the $94 billion price tag the island has set is already meeting with shock. “Puerto Rico has demonstrated time and time again that its government is incapable of responsibly handling its finances. This is yet another such instance,” Rep. Tom McClintock, who sits on the House committee with oversight over Puerto Rico, told The Washington Times in a statement after the bonuses were revealed. The bonuses, which analysts said are not uncommon in Latin America, date back to the 1970s in Puerto Rico. But they’ve been controversial in recent years as the island has struggled with debt. The payments in 2015, of about $120 million, sparked a fierce debate. This year the payments will total $113 million, the government told Bloomberg News. Some 250,000 people get bonuses, with current workers averaging $600 bonus and retirees getting about $200, Bloomberg reported. For the majority of government employees who make between $20,000 and $40,000 it’s an important boost, said Carlos Mercader, who leads Puerto Rico’s office in Washington, D.C. He said the governor, in making the payments, is following the law. And he said members of Congress who are pondering the territory’s massive relief request should be aware of how much the governor has already done to control the budget, such as a 20 percent reduction in political appointees in the government and a 15 percent cut in the operating budget.
Puerto Rico has a “rico” (rich) history of government corruption and waste. They were on the verge of bankruptcy LONG before hurricanes hit it. So, while we ALL care about the welfare of our fellow Americans who live there, the local politicians from the governor on down cannot continue to conduct corrupt business as usual, while at the same time holding their hands out asking for more and more money from the rest of us. This whole “bonus” nonsense is an affront, and we should just reduce our financial support in accordance (i.e. dollar for dollar) with whatever gratuitous waste of money the governor and his cronies dole out with the excuse of “that’s just how it’s been done here for years.” They were devastated by hurricanes. Extreme situations call for extreme responses; NOT typical cronyism as usual.